Let’s use the sandwich tactic: Yes, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borissov went to Israel, he called his conversation partners “dear friends”, since that is what they are.
At the AJC Global Forum, the head of government from Sofia said this: “Had it not been for Israel, Europe and European civilization would have been in bigger jeopardy in the face of rising radicalism and religious fundamentalism in the Middle East.” Respect. Here is someone who sees what is going on.
With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Borissov talked about strengthening ties between Israel and Bulgaria further, by starting co-productions, for instance in the area of defense. Excellent.
This was the thick layer of Nutella on the sandwich we are talking about here. Now let’s get to the butter layer.
When Borissov says he supports “a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, he repeats what everyone wants, everyone with peaceful intentions, including Netanyahu. The problem is that the Palestinian leadership does not support any peace, unless the latter includes getting rid of Israel altogether.
What the Bulgarian Prime Minister does not seem to recognize – and he is not the only European with this position – is that the Palestinian leaders need a lot pressure, or they will never recognize Israel, agree to negotiations or sign any peace agreement.
He made a point of the obvious, by saying Israel, “being a sovereign state”, had the right “to decide which city will be its capital and to insist that it be internationally recognized.” Oh really, even the Jews have that right? Thanks.
The next point is where Borissov departs from everything he has accurately stated just before: “The status of Jerusalem as the sacred site of the three monotheistic religions should be determined in the course of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.”
So, which of the two is it? Does Israel have the right to choose its capital or not? Besides, there are no negotiations. The only reason for this issue was already mentioned. Even historic facts are being disputed and twisted by those who are responsible for the explosive situation around Israel, and who have been since 1948.
All in all: Bulgaria supports Israel’s right to determine which capital it chooses. Well, the Jewish state already has, decades ago. But when it comes to moving the embassy to that capital, Bulgaria chickens out.
Now let’s get to the bread layer of the sandwich: Those nice words in Israel should be appreciated, the “strong ties” and all of that. But, how do those words, also those about Jerusalem, connect to Bulgaria’s voting behavior at the U.N. General Assembly?
Just a few months ago, on December 21st, 2017, Bulgaria voted for a resolution drafted by Yemen (yes, Yemen, no typo here) and Turkey, which pretty much said the opposite of what Borissov just stated in Jerusalem. It declared the status of that same city as Israel’s capital as “null and void”.
So, again, which one is it?
Sure, Borissov might not want trouble within the E.U., where this kind of “yes, but …” approach is very popular. Neither does he want more problems with his south-eastern neighbor Turkey, one of the sponsors of resolution ES‑10/L.22.
But some courage and consistency might be more important. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem, a model considered by the government of another neighboring country, Romania, would have been a bold, but natural move. It would have applied some more of the pressure needed.
Regarding U.N. votes: Aligning them with the government’s statements would sort of help the credibility, wouldn’t it?
Bulgaria fights antisemitism, it even appointed a coordinator, Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev, who leads those efforts. The country just celebrated the 75th anniversary of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews, and commemorated 11,343 Jews from Greece and former Yugoslavia, from regions it governed, who were deported and murdered by Nazi Germany. So, yes, Bulgaria is doing the right thing in several contexts.
One reason more to get the rest of its approach streamlined.
Oh, Bulgaria supported the American amendment of today’s UNGA resolution, condemning Hamas for its action at Israel’s border? Good. This is the least good friends can expect.